Flower Fun in the Smokies
One of the most distinguishing features of the Great Smoky Mountains is the natural beauty found here. Rolling hills, dipping valleys, diverse wildlife, changing leaves, sprawling mountain vistas, snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests, and in spring – wildflowers! Each spring, the Smokies celebrates this blooming beauty with the 5-day Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage.
The 5-day event gives guests the chance to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park through natural history walks, photography tours, guided hikes, art classes, seminars, and more. One registration fee covers all the activities, and there is something for all ages, both indoors and in the great outdoors. If you love the Smokies and have been looking for a way to learn more about its wildlife, history, and wildflowers, this is the perfect opportunity.
Within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 800+ miles of trails to explore, you’ll find irises, lilies, ferns, and a wide variety of flowers. The diversity of the flora in the Smokies is truly impressive! So hike, bike, or explore by horseback during the Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage!
Snap a Photo, Snag a Prize
Each year, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage also hosts a photo contest open to anyone 18 years and older. Categories include Flora, Fauna, and Landscape and should showcase the natural beauty of the Smokies. People and animals can be in the shots, but be sure the flora, fauna, or landscape is the focus of the photo! Held rain or shine, the photo contest is a fun way to show off amateur photography skills (no studio or professional photos) and show what inspires you most out in nature!
Flora – trees, shrubs, flowers & plant life
Fauna – insects & animals
Landscape – any great landscape shots!
The Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is $50 for 1 day or $75 for 2+ days (for adults). Students get in for just $15, and kids 12 and under are FREE. You’ll get an electronic confirmation when you register and pay online, and you can email questions to [email protected]. With almost 150 guided walks, seminars, and presentations throughout this 5-day event, you get access to tons of activities for your 1 registration fee. On-site registration is also available.
History of the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
April 1951 ushered in the first Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 2-day event featured tours, nighttime programs, and field trips encouraging locals and visitors to explore and learn more about the natural beauty, ecology, and history of the Smokies. That year – hailing from 20 states – 400 people descended upon the Smokies for the pilgrimage. That first group enjoyed paintings of flowers, nature exhibits, photography, guided walks through the Smokies, and more. Today, more and more guests attend the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage and more and more events are added!
After the Classes
After a day hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, attending nature seminars, participating in photography classes, and on the hunt for wildflowers, some rest and relaxation is due. At Cabins for YOU, we have hundreds of cozy cabins to choose from, all offering you a place to call home after a busy day. Stay tucked among the trees, perched high atop the mountains, right along the water, or just minutes from downtown.
Bringing a group? Check out our large group lodges that sleep anywhere from 20+ to 40+! Planning a romantic week away? Our 1-2 bedroom cabins are cozy and intimate, boasting amenities like heart-shaped jetted tubs, outdoor hot tubs, king-size beds, and dining tables with mountain views. And our 3-5 bedroom cabins are perfect for fun family vacations, with game tables, big screen TVs and Blu-ray players, Wi-Fi, full kitchens with dining tables, comfortable living rooms, bunk beds, and more!
More Exploring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is just 5 days out of the year, but the outdoor fun in the Smokies is year-round. You’ll still have 360 more days to explore the most visited national park in the U.S., whether you want to hike, bike, go horseback riding, picnic, fish, swim in a swimming hole, or take a scenic drive to explore the historic buildings of the area. The park boasts 800+ miles of trails within its borders, admission is FREE, and guided hikes and explorations are held throughout the year. So even if you can’t make it for the Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn first-hand about the flora, fauna, and culture of the Smokies.
The 2017 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
The 67th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, held April 11-15, 2017, was another event for the books. Despite the wildfire that devastated more than 17,000 acres of land in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in November 2016, the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage was in full swing and introduced some new experiences and features for guests. Natural Park Zone Fire Management Officers discussed “Fire Ecology of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” speaking on how the area was recovering from the fire. The 68th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage will be held April 24-28, 2018.
Other 2017 events included:
Charles Maynard | author and outdoorsman| “Reading Between the Lines – Stories
of Writing about the Smokies’ Waterfalls, Churches, and Trails”
Scott McFarland | Regional Resource Specialist and Biologist | Natural Sounds and
Night Skies in the Smokies
Mary Ruden | Featured Artist-of-the-Year | Wildflowers artwork
2017 Wildflower Pilgrimage shirts made onsite at the Mills Conference Center gallery
Native plant display in the Mills Conference Center gallery
More Outdoor Fun for Nature Lovers
The Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is just one of the many events nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. If you’re planning a getaway and need a few ideas of when to go to the Smokies, here are a few favorites that celebrate – or let you hang out in – the great outdoors.
Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament | Spring & Fall
“Hands On” Gatlinburg | April
Earth Week | April
Earth Day 5K | April
Gatlinburg Farmers Market | June – September
River Raft Regatta | July 4
Fun Facts about the Smokies
Want to know more about the Smokies? From black bears to salamanders, here are a few of our favorite fun facts!
- It’s the salamander capital of the world, home to 30+ species!
- It’s the most visited national park in the nation, beating out the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite!
- Each summer, Gatlinburg offers FREE trolley rides throughout the city!
- It features a 6,000-foot elevation change from its lowest to highest point.
- Fireflies synchronize their lights here, putting on an incredible show around late May or early June.
- Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – a top-rated aquarium in the country – houses 12-foot sharks!
- The Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre – a Broadway-style production – is the longest-running show in the Smokies.
- About 70 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail runs through the Smokies, where the trail hits its highest mark when it crosses Clingmans Dome (6,643 feet)
- With changes in the liquor laws in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, moonshine distilleries have popped up all over in the last few years!